Friday, May 28, 2010

Bus (read: ‘enough’ in Hindi) of this ride – Part I

I share more than this bus and my company with the forty people riding with me to office. Codes, bugs, metrics, time-sheets, MIS, so on and so forth; an endless list of things which keeps the subconscious mind occupied and the conscious one worried. Some of them have immersed themselves in the morning newspaper, but they seem more worried of the headlines that await them in office. Others have plugged their ears with music but still can’t bury the grinding sound of back breaking work and unsociable working hours. There are still others, who with closed eyes, try to catch up on lost sleep, but their minds are in overdrive trying to make sense of a life being spent in chasing dreams and finding realities. Left are a few, like me, who have stopped fretting about the present or the future and enjoy reminiscing about the wonderful days gone by.
I have had better bus rides, almost daily, with more cheerful bunch of people, ten fifteen years back. Being in school was a wonderful experience and our bus ride to school was no different. Every morning catching the school bus was the only end to which all our means were directed, as if it were the last bus to the holy city. It was mom who used to start with the rituals early in the day – “get up fast or you will miss your bus” which was followed a little later by “how much time do you need to finish brushing your teeth” but not ending with “you need to dress up fast or have you finally decided to miss your bus today”. Sometimes even dad used to join the party with his chosen ones – “that is not your father’s bus which would wait for you until you finish fine tuning your hair”.
It would be around quarter to seven, when all would be said and done, and we would be ushered out of the house. I had two options for my bus-stop. I could either take to the left of my house, towards the first bus stop or towards my right which would fall second in line on the bus route. I invariably used to choose the left one, for it ensured that I almost always had a good view (read: window seat) from the bus. My brother would always take to the right; though he was in a different school, he followed the same logic as above. Brothers! We had so much in common. Though being in different schools also ensured that neither of us was able to report back to the parents about what the other one did at the bus-stop. The bus-stop was a good distance away from our house (good we didn’t have a house pick-up then) so on the way I would call upon my friends from their houses. Even at their places you would end up witnessing the same morning madness and sometimes a lot more.
Once at the bus-stop, we used to first make sure the coast was clear i.e. we have seen our parents leave by to office. Not because we were up to something sinister but just that we might get beaten up for something silly. From here it was a fifteen minute wait until the bus showed up. Sometimes or often or always we used to end up starting a game of football. No dislike for cricket though; only because it was difficult to carry around an invisible thing as a cricket bat. But later on we could manage cricket as well because the guy managing the shop opposite to the bus-stop agreed to safe-keep a bat for us. Also with cricket there was the problem with toss, which we have managed with all things under the sun having two faces: match boxes, toffee wrappers, bottle caps, playing cards and so on. We used to play football with small plastic or rubber balls which had no complain lying discreetly in a corner of the schoolbag. Again it was two pairs of stones at opposite ends which used to serve as goals, which was arranged without much sweat and the ball put into motion. It was not easy though, to keep away from coming under somebody’s scooter or car (which did happen twice over, luckily not me) and at the same time making sure one scored a goal or saved one and also to catch sight of the bus at a fair distance so that one can sober up fast enough not to catch the eye of the teachers in the bus. If that were to happen, you were sure that your account for the day gets opened in the bus, provided the parents have not done that already. It used to be a high energy game because we needed a result in fifteen or so minutes. I always tried to make sure to be on the same side with my good friend (he goes by the name Aji from now on) so as not to end up with lot of cuts and bruises, a price often paid for playing on tarred roads. Aji was one who used to take his football seriously, at least the shorter version, and with his built and tricks we used to more or less end up winning the game. There rarely used to be arguments on the field because we used to dictate the terms and the kids knew better that any smartness on their part would be dealt with appropriately.
Once inside the bus, the rush was to look for the window seat. Later on, when we graduated to the senior class, there were always two seats left for us: one for me and another for Aji. No one in their right mind dared to occupy those seats. Then one day a loony kid got us into trouble; we found him sitting on our seat. He was a new kid, who joined from a different school and was therefore not aware of our position in the pecking order. Ignorance can be tolerated but arrogance was to be crushed in the bud. But there is nothing that, a few tight smacks, a pull or two of the hairs and generous bumps on the back, can’t set straight. But our victory was short lived. The very next day he brought his mother along and pointed us out to her when we entered the bus. She smacked us black and blue and the kids in the bus enjoyed every moment of it. We reclined to the last row of the bus, for that day and many more days to come. We were just happy that the proceeding happened inside the bus and we were spared the ignominy of the whole locality knowing about it; we had a reputation to worry about. Also the news did not reach home because we were sure that if it did it would have brought the devil out of our parents.


deeps said...

I think the situation in trains is no different …to travel in fully packed compartments, with people almost breathing into your nostrils is disgusting…it is.

But the advantage is no one’s mom would dare to squeeze in there to smack unless she is that bold! ;-)

bhuji said...

I never travelled by bus coz dad used to drop us to school so does that mean u look down on me. Think and answer with reference to that mail on happy married life i give u 3 chances

Who said...

As the saying goes, 'the means (bus,dad,auto) do not matter if the end (reaching school) justify the means". Hopefully I still have the 3 chances!!??